1 TREASURY PLACE
THURSDAY 12 SEPTEMBER
SUBJECT/S: LABOR PARTY LEADERSHIP
BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon everyone. Thank you everyone for being here.
Today I am announcing that I shall be putting my name forward to be Leader of the Australian Labor Party.
I want to lead the rebuilding of our movement and to take the fight up to the Coalition in Australian politics.
I am running because I believe that Labor can win the next election.
I have taken the decision to run with regard to the interests of the great Australian Labor Party and with the interests of my family at the forefront of my mind.
I have spoken to my Caucus colleagues, and along with them, I firmly believe that Labor must stand up and fight for what we believe in, and not automatically assume that Labor’s road back should be too long.
I believe that Labor can win the battle of ideas, and put our party back into serious contention for the next election.
I am under no illusion about the task ahead of us.
It is devastating to have lost the election, and to have lost Government. And we must learn the lessons of this defeat, and then take up the fight.
We cannot afford to sit back and bide our time in Opposition.
Labor cannot afford it – but more importantly, Australia can’t afford for Labor to sit back and assume that we can’t win the next election.
Labor owes this to millions of Australians who love a strong democracy and the millions of Australians who want a unified alternative to the Coalition to vote for.
I want to lead our party, to grow our membership, to grow our movement, to win back government, so we can continue to make Australia a better place.
To do this, Labor will need to reach out beyond its traditional constituencies.
To do this, Labor will need to reignite the passion of our base.
We must fight as hard as we can to protect those who the Abbott Government’s policies will hurt most.
I will not sit idly by and watch the wreckers of Australian politics tear down the accomplishments of the last six years.
We know what they are; the NBN, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, better schools, a fairer go at work, a price on carbon pollution.
It is not the Labor way to sit back and do nothing.
I have the passion, I have the commitment, and I have the ideas to lead Australian Labor, both inside the Parliament, but even more importantly, outside the Parliament, to campaign for Labor and our positive vision for the future.
I believe our period in opposition should be about our ideas and about our vision for Australia’s next 10, 20 and 30 years.
Indeed, our vision for the future should be as important to us as holding the Coalition to account for their actions.
People know Labor’s vision. It is the idea that Better Schools will lift every child up to accomplish their innate potential.
The idea that Australians should not work hard their whole lives and retire poor.
The idea that Australians with disability or their carers should be equal and able to fulfil their potential with equal citizenship.
The idea that Australian can be an innovative, productive, outwardly-focused, job-creating nation.
Labor can win the next election if we are the party of ideas, not just personalities.
I shall submit myself to my Caucus colleagues and to thousands of Labor Party members across Australia.
And I welcome this ballot, and the opportunity to start the momentum so that Labor can win the next election.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Why should the Labor Party trust you when you acted against the previous two Labor Prime Ministers?
BILL SHORTEN: It is very clear that I, along with all members of the Caucus should accept some responsibility for the last few years. Decisions were hard. I have always acted with the best interests of the Labor Party and the nation at stake. In order to fulfil the potential of this nation and the democracy which drives the qualities of our nation the Labor Party must always do its utmost to be competitive.
This is what has driven my actions, and this is what I believe drives the actions of our party colleagues. But what I also know is that this ballot process, if there is to be a ballot, this process to choose a new Labor leader - I for one certainly will pledge that this process will unite us, and the Labor Party can get on with it. We can rule a line under the division of the years of the Rudd and Gillard era, and Labor can look to the future, and voters can know that Australian Labor is focussed on the future.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident of winning support from Labor Party members if there is a ballot?
BILL SHORTEN: I believe I can win the confidence of the majority of my Caucus colleagues. I believe that I can win the confidence of ALP members across Australia. But this is ultimately going to be a matter for my Caucus colleagues; this will ultimately be a matter for rank and file members.
JOURNALIST: Has Mr Albanese told you that he intends to stand?
BILL SHORTEN: Well if Anthony Albanese stands, let me just be very clear – he is an outstanding parliamentarian, with much experience. If the Labor Party was to choose him, the Labor Party would be very well served.
And I believe this ballot, if there is to be one, this debate, needs to be conducted with a new civility. I would certainly say to me colleagues that people want to hear the Labor Party talk about ideas, they don’t want to hear us talking about ourselves and certainly not disparaging each other.
So if Anthony nominates, he will be an excellent and outstanding candidate. If he was successful, I would certainly work with him and accept the verdict of the members.
But I also say that I believe I bring energy, I believe I bring optimism, I’m hungry for victory, and these are qualities that are important for Labor to be competitive to win the next election.
JOURNALIST: It has been reported today that Mr Albanese told you over the phone that he intends to run. Is that report true?
BILL SHORTEN: I’ll leave it to other people to announce if they choose to run or not.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Anthony Albanese in the last 24 hours since you’ve made these decisions?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes, we’ve had constructive conversations. I know he too, like all me caucus colleagues is conscientious.
JOURNALIST: One of Labor’s achievements is a price on carbon. If you were to win the role of Opposition Leader would you stand firm on a carbon tax and black any attempt by Mr Abbott to repeal that?
BILL SHORTEN: Ultimately, matters of policy are determined by Caucus. But I think it is right that people know what I believe. I believe that climate change is real. I believe that man-made carbon emissions contribute to climate change. I know that Labor fundamentally believes in putting a price on carbon pollution.
I do not believe it is good politics or indeed a good vision for Australia to defer to the next generation dealing with the problems of this generation, and Labor has a mandate for its views on a carbon price on pollution.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask as well in 2010 your mother-in-law, the Governor General, had to receive some advice on any conflict of interest. Do you have any concerns if you were to win this role about any conflict of interest?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
JOURNALIST: Who would be your deputy if you were successful?
BILL SHORTEN: Well there has been no nomination and it will be up to people in the Caucus to nominate. I think if I were successful and indeed the party would be well served if Tanya Plibersek, and I’ve indicated to her that I think she would be a very strong part of a leadership proposition, which would interest the Australian electorate.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you said before that Labor has a mandate on carbon pricing, but Tony Abbott won this election on the promise that he would abolition the carbon tax. So, therefore, do you acknowledge that he has a mandate to abolish the carbon tax and would you respect that?
BILL SHORTEN: This may be the case of duelling mandates, but just because the Coalition obtained more votes than Labor, doesn’t mean that the Labor Party ceases being the Labor Party.
People vote for the Labor Party because they know that we are the party that want to put a price on carbon pollution. People vote for Labor because they know we are the Party who introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
People vote for Labor because they know that we can be more trusted on education and a fair go at work. Labor shouldn’t stop pursuing its issues, merely because someone else has a different idea.
JOURNALIST: When you talk about reuniting the Labor Party do you see rank and file participation in the ballot process as crucial to that process?
BILL SHORTEN: I welcome having rank and file participation. Politics in Australia will change through this process that the Labor Party is introducing to be able to select its leader.
If you are someone who is interested in politics, if you are someone who is interested in the battle of ideas, if you are someone who is interested in progress in this country - the fact that the Labor Party wants to ask your opinion, that you will have a say in who the leader of the Labor Party is, to me gives the best incentive for people to reengage with the political process.
So yes I do believe involving more people is a game changer and I believe that whoever is the winner, if there is a contest, this process will create momentum and it will provide the opportunity for a platform to start the campaign to win the next election and that will also involve, in terms of the base, listening to what people have to say, learning from the observations.
The Labor Party must reach out to new constituencies – farmers, small business, professional women, pensioners.
We need to reach out and engage with all sorts of groups to form the broadest possible movement, so that the Labor Party can truly be the Party of the people of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Should Kevin Rudd leave Parliament, and give you some clean air?
BILL SHORTEN: What Kevin Rudd, the Member for Griffith, does is entirely up to him. His efforts in the last election helped ensure more Labor MPs have returned to Parliament than they otherwise would, and I will acknowledge that forever.
What I also know is that debate about personalities in the Labor Party really does need to cease. For those MPs who feel that they just have to get off their chest a negative comment about a colleague, please go into an empty room and say it to no one and get it out of your system then let’s get back to standing up for Labor voters.
I am grateful for the work that Julia Gillard did in the minority Parliament, she led us at a very difficult period, and accomplished changes which only she could have accomplished. And I am grateful for Kevin Rudd’s efforts to make sure that Labor is a fighting force and we have the opportunity, given our acknowledgement of the lessons of this election, to make sure we are providing a viable, big picture, big vision, for a Good Society in Australia at the next election.
JOURNALIST: 43 per cent primary vote for the Greens in Melbourne. How do you get that vote back to the Labor Party? Do you have to change your asylum seeker policy?
BILL SHORTEN: In terms of people who voted Green, of course we would like some of them to vote Labor, just as we want people who voted for the Coalition on this occasion or other parties.
Labor needs to be the party of ideas. Our challenge in Opposition will not just to be negative and hold the Government to account, it will be to be positive and optimistic about our future.
I believe that voters are looking from Australian political parties for the competition for who has the best long-term plan for Australia. Australian voters, they want to see what we will say not over the next 24 hours or the next week or four weeks, but they want to know what we think about Australia for the next 10 and 20 years.
That is why it is an exciting, but difficult time and that’s why I believe I can make Labor be competitive at the next national election.
JOURNALIST: Have you got any further ideas on party reform that you will push to reengage the votes.?
BILL SHORTEN: I think that a lot of the debates of the Labor Party have to be within the Labor Party, but what I do know is this - we need to open up the Labor Party to the broadest possible range of people.
I believe there are a lot of people out there who are interested in politics. We’ve seen the profusion of minor parties. I know that in the Labor campaign, our field campaign, we had over one million phone calls, thousands of activists mobilised. I look at the campaigns that were run for instance, but not limited to Bendigo with Lisa Chesters or Parramatta with Julie Owens, or Anna Burke in Chisholm, Mark Dreyfus in Isaacs.
They mobilised volunteers and groups of people to be active in politics, and I think we can take these lessons. When I was involved in disability, disability was not a national political issue. I was able, I believe, to help contribute to uniting the disability sector, to make it a movement again, and therefore create the momentum for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Labor can win the battle of ideas if we are sincere, if we are authentic and if we encourage people to get involved with the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: How much damage will be caused to the Party if the election of a new party leader drags out?
BILL SHORTEN: I think what we need to do is demonstrate to Australians that we are ruling a line under the past division. I think it is healthy to have a ballot of the members. I think is exciting for the members to be asked their opinion.
If you are a member of the Labor Party you get to have a say in who runs the Labor Party. Equally importantly, it’s important that we conduct this debate with civility and we have a debate about ideas, we have a debate about campaigning, energy and optimism for the future.
But one thing is certainly for sure, we need to make sure, and I certainly pledge myself to this, that once the verdict of the members is had, once the verdict of our Caucus colleagues is had, then that’s it - we get on with the important business of listening and rebuilding, of campaigning, and energising so that Labor can be a genuine, serious alternative at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Should Kevin Rudd resign from politics altogether? Has he been a destabilising force within your party?
BILL SHORTEN: Sorry, I thought earlier on I spoke about the Member for Griffith. I acknowledge his contribution at the last election. He has been elected as the Member. Anyone who wants to hear me say anything negative about any member of the Labor Party will be sorely disappointed.
JOURNALIST: When you talk about building the base, and reaching out to other groups, does that necessarily involve decreasing the union influence in the ALP?
BILL SHORTEN: I’m a life member of a Union. I think that trade unions help keep us in touch with a significant group of Australians who work every day, who generate national income who help ensure the fair distribution of national income.
What I believe is in increasing the overall membership of the Labor Party. There are groups in Australian politics, constituencies and people who mightn’t feel that the Labor Party caters for them. We have to change that perception.
What I would say to ordinary Australians - people in business, in small business, farmers, all sorts of walks of life, the professions, academia – is the Labor Party wants you.
We want your ideas. We want your lessons. And we want your observations. We want you to be involved. That is our challenge, to engage people who don’t feel currently included in the political process, and to reenergise people who are perhaps cynical and perhaps believe the process is not authentic.
JOURNALIST: Are you daunted by the fact that it’s 100 years since an opposition leader has been installed after a government change and went on to become Prime Minister?
BILL SHORTEN: It is certainly a difficult task. But I do not believe that if I seek to be the leader of the Labor Party that you automatically choose the time that suits you.
I am always motivated by how to make the Labor Party most competitive. And also, I understand that for us to win the next election it won’t be about an individual. It will be about a team.
There is a great team of Opposition Members, a lot of new ones, a lot of experience, but a lot of new energy. So when you think about the Labor Party, I believe you will think about a whole range of people with really good ideas, which are about engaging people and re-engaging in the political process.
So it won’t fall on one person to win the next election. It will be a team effort. So I believe one of my jobs, if chosen to be leader, will be to energise and organise the Labor team, because many hands make light work.
JOURNALIST: What would you do if you’re not successful?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I’ll serve in whatever capacity the Labor Party wants me to. I’m not a take your bat and ball and go home guy. The Labor Party needs people who are committing to the rebuilding. I hope to be around for the long haul. I will fully respect the decision of the members and my Caucus colleagues. But, of course, I wouldn’t have nominated – I wouldn’t be nominating – if I didn’t think I had significant support from all the calls and encouragement that I’ve received.
JOURNALIST: Are there any policies you’d change?
BILL SHORTEN: I’d leave that to the Caucus, to go through our policies. And as I said, what I think is important is we didn’t just lose this election because of disunity – although I think that perception certainly stopped people listening to us on other matters. But there are – and so. there will be policies we have to revisit.
Let me give you my personal opinion. I am convinced that the NBN is a good idea. I am convinced that putting a price on carbon pollution is a good idea. I am convinced that a fair go all round at work is a good idea. I am convinced that Better Schools is a good idea. And I am certainly convinced that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a good idea.
I know that the stock exchange is well north of 5000, where it wasn’t 18 months ago. I know that we have relatively low interest rates. And I know our unemployment, whilst difficult, is far lower than any other comparative nations.
This country is a good country. And what I won’t do – whilst we have to learn the lessons of the election – while I concede that we made mistakes, not just in disunity – is throw the economic legacy out with the bathwater.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that your colleagues will see you as one of the faces of that disunity, and that the public will see you as one of the faces of that disunity?
SHORTEN: Well, I do acknowledge that disunity has been one of the factors that turned Australians, some Australians, to change their vote from Labor. But I also say that in hard decisions, what’s motivated me is how do you make the Labor Party the most competitive choice you can in Australian politics.
I believe there are lessons to be learned from that, and I take responsibility. But what I also know is that we can have generational change in Labor. I also know that we can win in one. I also know that I’ve got energy and ideas. I also know that the challenge of the next three years will not just be in the Parliament of Australia, but it will be outside the Parliament of Australia, in the streets and suburbs and postcodes.
I know that we need to build a movement. I know that we need to reach out to new supporters. And I know we need to energise our existing supporters. It’s a big job. It’s a daunting job.
But I believe Labor can win the next election. And that’s why I’m putting my hand up.
Thank you very much.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberley Gardiner 0419 778 229
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